The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

January 2, 2011

We Wish You a Scary Christmas

In 2005, I thought this was my engagement photo, but I was being conned by a team of professional criminals

Study the man in this photo carefully.  His name is Mostafa Ibrahimi, or at least this is one of  his aliases, and if I am ever found dead, he is the man who killed me.  You see, he thinks if I die, he will inherit such money as I have, but needless to say, I changed my will when he publicly humiliated me and scammed me out of my money.  He had convinced me we were getting married — this photo to the right was our engagement photo, or so I thought, and I had invitations printed, a wedding dress made, and I sent tens of thousands of  dollars to Morocco to his family — or people posing as such — to prepare a lavish wedding reception.  They never intended that there should be any wedding at all.  They disappeared with the cash, and I was utterly, utterly humiliated and broken.  The people at my church, who had also been fooled by this man — he had attended church with me for a year and a half, pretending to have had a born-again experience, and he had attended six session of pre-marital counseling with my pastor, who was to perform the ceremony of this imaginary wedding that never took place — they stood by me.  While I underwent this horrible humiliation, however, people in the poetry world were less kind.  One woman, scheduled to be a bridesmaid in Morocco until the scam was revealed, told others that I was in a rubber room in Bellevue — I was in fact in my apartment weeping, my cat on my chest, with older women from my church and my good friend Andrea making me come out and breathe and eat from time to time.  Another writer told others she swore she had seen me in the streets on drugs, stoned out of my mind.  In fact, I was just praying on a street corner, thanking God I was still alive, as I realized I had had a close brush with death in the person of this very dangerous man.

I of course filed a complaint with the Queens County DA for conspiracy to defraud.  I believe because this man is a Moroccan National it was later taken over by the NSA, who doubtless wanted to monitor the money trail.

I recovered financially and emotionally, won literary prizes for work written during this crisis, and then this man contacted me several days after Christmas 2010 — a few days ago.  He told me that if I did not give him a quarter of a million dollars, he would tell the people of this church who cried with me when I was humiliated that I had forced him to have sadomasochistic sex and that I was forcing him to convert from Islam while sexually enslaving him.

Let me tell you that my sexual powers, while they might make a man see God, are not designed to enslave but to liberate, and Mostafa, let me say it in French, so that you can hear it loud and clear — inutile de vous dire que j’ai change de testament et que vous n’etes plus mon heritier.  Ce titre appartient a mon mari, et les autorites sont entirement au courant de cela et de vos activites.

Needless to say, I will not be sending him any money to prevent him from saying these things to my former church.  These people still have my back, and I am proud to live in a country where being a woman writer does not require a bloody cloth be waved in the air to prove her chastity before publication.  If some Americans actually thought that I had enslaved a hapless foreign Muslim man with my you-know-what, they would high five me in the streets.  In New York, they would throw me a ticker tape parade.

I contacted the FBI about his blackmail attempt.  It is in their hands.

Anyway, yes — I was one of those women, those sad, astonished-looking scammed women you see on 20/20 and other shows like it.  I am not a moron.  This man is not a genius.  He is, however, well-rehearsed and unimaginably perverse, willing to work with a group of conspirators at close range to tell women precisely what they want to hear.  What I wanted to hear, more than I wanted every penny I owned, was “welcome to the family.”

I had been married before.  My husband and I were calling it quits after a history where he cheated on me and hurt me physically.  My father took his side in the divorce — a typical part of that relationship between me and my family.  Here came a man speaking a sparkling French, not with a Moroccan accent, but the accent of a Swiss diplomat, claiming to be both a Christian and a feminist.  Was I dumb?  Not exactly.  He was handsome, elegant, and profoundly evil, and I assumed I was too poor to attract a man who had designs upon my fortune.

My girlfriends and so-called girlfriends — they saw me the night this photo was taken for an engagement party in the salons of the National Arts Club.  Several of them were jealous in the extreme — one tried to slip him her telephone number and offered to sleep with him (she knew as a born-again Christian I would not be doing the deed until my wedding night), and another woman got into a physical fight with one of my friends, pouring tea on her head.  One was unkind enough when my money was gone along with my sense of goodness in the world to remark that I should have known it was a scam because I was not good looking enough to attract a man this pretty.

Let me ask it again: Was I dumb?  For the last five years, every day, I have called myself an idiot.  However, since receiving his attempted blackmail e-mail, I am feeling less stupid and more retroactively lonely.  My family and I were really barely on speaking terms at all.  My husband had left bruises on me and made me  feel vampirized — the money Mostafa took in a fraud was money that my ex-husband had intended that I should spend on supporting him while he did not work.  My friends in the art world, even my bridesmaids, were slandering me.  I think most of my friends hated me at least in a part-time kind of a way — in New York, when someone’s career is going well, or their love life is going well, or they get a rent-controlled apartment for almost no money, this is what happens, and my life was going gangbusters on a couple of fronts.  I did not know, however, that I was the victim of an actual gang trying to actually bust me.

I now think less that I was an idiot than I was unaccompanied, and like someone who walks into an alleyway alone, I was perhaps a little bit more likely to be mugged than another.  I was not an idiot.  I was a victim of a well-planned and completely rehearsed scam involving five or more participants who convinced me that a warm, interesting, unconventional (in either the Arab culture or the American one), loving family in Casablanca awaited me just as I was.  Every lie had a schedule and was linked to the previous lie.  One week, Mostafa would tell me a story that had many details, and a side detail of one lie would become the central detail of the next.  He never forgot a lie, not once.  However, when he disappeared, in discovering the fallacy of one detail, I discovered the unthinkable — that for a year and a half, every single word out of the person I thought I knew the best and loved the most had been from start to finish utterly false.

Again, I ask you to look at the man in the photo.  If you see him, don’t give him directions to my house, even though my husband has a Southern welcome waiting for him when he gets there.  Look at the woman in the photo — me back then, operating under illusions.  Look at the certainty of the gaze, the peace in the smile.  I would give him triple the money he tried to blackmail me out of if only I could get back the peace you see there that he stole from me five years ago.  If I could get back the peace and my credibility with others, who used to think me a good judge of character, a steady and reliable person, I would give any amount of money he asked.

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9 Comments »

  1. That is truly frightening and I am sorry to hear about it. I can definitely see how such a thing could happen, particularly when you were in the uncertain spot of having recently left the abusive marriage, and not being backed by family.

    It’s disturbing to hear that people are weaving such intricate lies, and more so that he would get in touch after all this time.

    Too bad for him and his greed, things are very different for you now.

    Comment by Catherine — January 2, 2011 @ 6:22 am | Reply

  2. You were vulnerable, not stupid. He was a very slick predator, who probably has done this many, many times.
    I think during this horrible period in your life, you found out who your real friends are, and are not. I think you are very pretty, and I wouldn’t sleep with my friend’s fiancee before or after THE BIG EVENT.
    Re your family – I was listening to writers on Prairie Home Companion last night, and I was struck again by how much in common I had with them – about having an artistic bent and feeling completely out of place in the world. I used to think I was a space alien, or something – I was not like anybody I knew. But guess what? Artists are like that. But the tough cookies survive, and you and I are tough cookies.

    Comment by Nancy Hawkins — January 2, 2011 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

    • I’m glad we’re both tough cookies. Here’s hoping we’re always fresh out of the oven.

      Comment by annebabson — January 3, 2011 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

  3. Anne, It was so hard to read this post, so painful to see this rawness. I am truly sorry this happened to you. There are few of these broken, hateful people, but they do exist. I have known one, and it was a terrible time for me. They prey, there is no other way for me to describe it. Your others, the frenemies in NY, are more run-of-the-mill horrors, ones we all have to negotiate through, I tend to think they suffer even as they behave hatefully and that is far more forgivable than the people who treat others like rabbits they are hunting in the woods. Thank god you are safe and loved and have had time to heal.

    Comment by Jacqueline — January 2, 2011 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  4. Dear Anne,

    This was forwarded to me by a friend and in reading this was deeply hurt for you as well as angered. I don’t know if you remember but as a staff member of FEF I was a first hand witness of the 9/11 attacks and saw the horrors of that dreadful day. The Lord was good to me and spared my life. Sorry to say when I see people that look like this Mostafa character I have a tendency to pass judement on them and place them in the catagory of “evil terrorists”. But The Holy Spirit will always convict me and remind me that The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Having said all that I would like to see all the terrorists brought to the top of the new towers once completed, and given the chance to truly repent and receive Jesus then shoved over the edge on their way to real glory! On a bright note it seems like the Lord has restored back to you that which the canker worm has destroyed and made you better for it. I wish and pray all of Gods blessings on you from now until He returns!

    In Christ,

    Steve

    Comment by Steve D — January 4, 2011 @ 3:39 pm | Reply

    • Dear Steve,

      Yes, I do remember your testimony.

      As awful as what happened to me is, I think it would be a mistake to mix common criminals with terrorists. This man hates all women, I have to believe, is not an Islamic person except that this was the tradition in which he was raised, because real Muslims cannot steal or slander in the name of their god. In fact, my problems with this man had little, if anything, to do with his heritage except that perhaps I might have chalked up certain things that might not have quite seemed “normal” to cross-cultural differences. I was willing to marry a Christian Arab man with a warm, loving Arab family.

      If you and your wife felt like praying the 91st Psalm for me, I would be much obliged.

      Comment by annebabson — January 4, 2011 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

  5. Consider it done! I pray Psalm 91 over us, our children, and grandchildren everyday.

    Blessings to you Anne!

    Comment by Steve D — January 4, 2011 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  6. Dear Anne,

    Some people are really skilled at living a lie. If they were not successful they would not continue their criminal activities.

    Here are two situations that I have known about over the past 25 years. The dramatics of them are not anywhere near what you have faced but are just as deplorable.

    One of my good friends dated a foreigner about 20 years ago. The fellow said he was in the process of applying for a green card. Same MO like the thug that stole your money. He knew exactly how to sweet talk, wine and dine. You name it he did it. He was the perfect suitor. They went through the normal discussions that couples that are considering marriage would go through. He almost had her UNTIL she decided to keep pressing him about the green card process. After a time without him showing any proof that he was applying she hit the road. I believe since then they passed a law stating that you have to stay married for several years before you can apply for citizenship or something like that. It is a lot harder now for foreigners to marry someone just long enough to get the green card then split.

    I attended a church in the early 80s. For most of that time I was a choir member. I got to know a good number of the choir members very well. I think two or three of the siblings did not attend the church and were not ‘saved’. The mother and several siblings were either in the choir or helped out in the church. The family would talk about how horrible one of the brothers was when it came to criminal activity. Basically he was a prayer request. 14 years after I stopped attending that church I start going to a hair stylist who was going through a divorce because she found out after eight years of marriage that her husband was a drug user and criminal. She went to cosmetology school and left his behind after ten years of marriage. A few years later I find out that her ex-husband is the one that the family I mentioned earlier talked about. Imagine I knew about the rascal all those years but she had no clue until eight years into the marriage when money started disappearing. BUT what I did not know was that not just her ex-husband but the entire family were still involved in the criminal activity. This was while I was spending a lot of time with them. I believed her but wanted to check for myself. I checked a website that shows court dockets and several of them indeed had been in some mess. Unfortunately in June 2003 one of the siblings was murdered while picking up his nieces from school. He had actually gotten his life right at the time. My hair stylist believes that the intended target was her ex-husband. When they had the funeral she refused to let her son ride in the family cars for obvious reasons. You can imagine how stunned I was to find this out. From what my hair stylist has told me all of them except her ex-husband have straightened up, thank God.

    I tell you I know the Lord kept me safe during those days. I pray and trust that the Holy Spirit will warn me in the future before I get too close to madness like that again.

    Comment by Pamela — January 4, 2011 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

  7. OMG, what a horrible situation…was he calling from inside THIS country…I think you need to call in the Israelis….that would take care of him pronto…Did he actually think “blackmailing” you by calling your former church is such a threat…like they would really believe him. Did you tell him to please go ahead? and while he is at it, give you his address so that the cops and FBI and Homeland Security can talk to him….He is a terrorist and needs to head to Guantanamo…I think you should go on Dateline or 20/20 or America’s Most Wanted…and expose him. He will never be able to come to this country again…

    Comment by Devorah — January 9, 2011 @ 10:10 pm | Reply


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